Democratic Candidates Visit Liberal Bloggers

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The Democratic presidential candidates have been stopping by the Yearly Kos, an annual meeting of liberal bloggers sponsored by the blog "Daily Kos."

JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden.

All of the major Democratic presidential candidates are in Chicago this afternoon, courting a gathering of liberal bloggers. It's the second annual YearlyKos Convention, which takes its name from one of the last most influential blogs, Daily Kos.

NPR's Scott Horsley is also there. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Great to be with you, Jacki.

LYDEN: Scott, tell me what the convention is all about.

HORSLEY: Jacki, this is the most concentrated gathering of high-profiled, progressive bloggers ever. There are about 1,500 people here at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. And the highlight this afternoon was their presidential leadership forum, which drew six of the major Democratic candidates.

LYDEN: Well, it's easy to see why the candidates would be there. What are they getting out of it? What's happening?

HORSLEY: Well, it's (unintelligible). You might think 1,500 people - it's not that many. But as I stood on the camera riser at the back of the hall this afternoon, I was (unintelligible) out by the usual TV cameras. But lots of little hand-held mini-cams run by video bloggers and lots of the people who are in the audience were live-blogging from their laptops.

That's what the candidates are looking for. These 1,500 opinion leaders represent the gatekeepers to the unruly forest of Internet activists out there. We could say that what talk radio is to conservatives, these bloggers are for liberal. They're the cheerleaders. They're the fundraisers. They're the mobilizers. They're some of the most passionate people on the left.

The Democrats want to harness that energy. Even Senator Hillary Clinton, who has not been a favorite of the blogosphere, showed up to make nice today.

LYDEN: So how was she received?

HORSLEY: She was received, I'd say, cordially, although not as warmly as some of the other candidates. I think former Senator John Edwards came across as the crowd's favorite today. He gave a lot of impassioned rhetoric about the need for big change in the country. And that's a popular message with this group that's particularly dissatisfied with the way the country is run.

I think Senator Barack Obama also got a very enthusiastic welcome here in his hometown. But, you know, I kind of feel like a vestige of old media here trying to describe what went on. So I've got a couple of bloggers who were in the audience and I'll let you hear from them.

Marcy Wheeler and Mark Schmitt are here with me. Marcy's blog is called The Next Hurrah.

Ms. MARCY WHEELER (Blogger, The Next Hurrah): Hi there, this is Marcy.

LYDEN: Hey, Marcy Wheeler, Jacki Lyden here. So how's it going? What are you getting out of it?

Ms. WHEELER: For me, the best thing about the convention is seeing a bunch of people I talked to all the time online and actually being with them and meeting a lot of my readers face to face so…

LYDEN: Do you feel like a gatekeeper?

Ms. WHEELER: No. In fact, there was a conversation today about media and gatekeeping. And it's still a conversation, I think, among the blogs. So that's one of the reasons why this is so fun, that I talk to readers who have been giving me suggestions that I've been incorporating into my own work.

LYDEN: Give us the name of your blog once more, please.

Ms. WHEELER: It's called TheNextHurrah.com

LYDEN: Okay, thank you very much for speaking with us, Marcy Wheeler.

Ms. WHEELER: Okay, let me pass you to Mark Schmitt.

LYDEN: Great.

Mr. MARK SCHMITT (Blogger): Hi.

LYDEN: Hi. This is Mark Schmitt?

Mr. SCHMITT: This is Mark. Yup.

LYDEN: Mark, hi. Jacki Lyden. Tell us the name of your blog.

Mr. SCHMITT: Well, I blog on TPMCafe.com, which is a spin-off of Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, which is one of the most popular of the liberal blogs.

LYDEN: And you - looking to have an impact here on the campaign?

Mr. SCHMITT: I'm not looking to have too much of an impact on the campaign. I'm more interested in how different issues are playing out in the campaign. So I, you know, if I'll write about tax policy, I'll comment on how I think some of the different candidates are handling an issue like that or an issue like political reform, CAFE finance reform, which I was on a panel about today, rather than trying to have an impact, you know, in terms of supporting one candidate or the other.

LYDEN: Well, let me ask you. This is billed as the blogging convention that is the highest profile so far for political candidates. Do you feel like you're satisfied with getting access to them, with getting them to come and deal with you as the - dare I say this - media of the future?

Mr. SCHMITT: One could hardly be dissatisfied. It's interesting to look at how the candidates deal with bloggers. And I think there is beginning to be an appreciation that this isn't just like another interest group that you have to show up and they're happy that you show up.

And another is its basic democratic strategy. I mean, there's an enormous amount of thought here in this building about how Democrats should operate, that they should campaign in all 50 states. That was one of the big issues during the candidate forum. And there was a lot of back and forth and strong applause for different views of that strategy.

So I think they're seeing bloggers as more than just another interest group.

LYDEN: Have you decided, Mark Schmitt, what you're going to write about from this for Talking Points Memo?

Mr. SCHMITT: I think I will write something about how sort of, why I don't want to say - how sort of boring and responsible it all is?

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: Welcome to the club.

Mr. SCHMITT: You know, there's - it's - there's a lot less likeness(ph). I mean, there's a less of the sort of, you know, impeach them all now and the people yelling and screaming. There are more people who are doing real work around politics and issues. And it's like other things I go to except there's more energy in the room. That's the big difference, I think.

LYDEN: Well, Mark Schmitt, thank you very much for speaking with us.

Mr. SCHMITT: Sure. Good to talk to you.

LYDEN: We want to thank NPR's Scott Horsley at the YearlyKos bloggers' convention in Chicago. Thanks again, Scott.

HORSLEY: My pleasure.

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